1. The 'Temporary Nature' of the Camp and its Effects on the Inmates
As we have shown in Chapter I, the history of the concentration camp Majdanek was extraordinarily chaotic. There could be no sense of any clear and consistent development since the camp's function was continually changing. Majdanek remained a temporary measure to the end.
Alert observers had not failed to notice this. One 1943 report of the Polish Resistance movement, which we will quote later, stated that the lack of interest on the part of the German authorities showed that the situation in Majdanek was temporary. For the inmates, this circumstance had very definite consequences-some were positive, but significantly more were not.
One of the potential positive effects was that at times there was not enough work in Majdanek for all the inmates. For example, as we saw in the last chapter, on December 9, 1943, 537 of the 4,466 inmates of the "protective detention camp" were healthy but not assigned to any work.
Another advantage which the "lack of interest on the part of the German authorities", to use the Resistance movement's expression, had for the internees was the ease with which messages could be exchanged with the outside world.
At least part of the time, the inmates were able to correspond with their kin legally, though of course in a form censored by the camp authorities. Aside from this, the exchange of letters and secret messages by illegal means flourished, and the camp authorities obviously made no attempts to stop it: it seems that they could not care less. Józef Marszałek comments:
"During the expansion of Majdanek, beginning in spring 1942, about twenty [approx. translation of the Polish "kilkanaście"] construction companies appeared on the camp's terrain, and employed civilian laborers from the city. In no other camp except for Auschwitz did they play as extraordinarily important a role in the everyday life of the camp as they did at Majdanek. They became a secret bridge between the inmates and their families, underground organizations, fellow citizens who wanted to help, and charitable organizations. They informed the families of individual inmates that these were in fact detained in the camp, and brought the prisoners food, medicine and, most importantly, secret messages from their families. [...] The members of the Polish Red Cross arranged the exchange of information between the camp and the outside world [...] Young, unusually courageous Ludwik Jurek, who delivered the Red Cross parcels, acted as 'camp mailman'. He accepted secret messages and passed them discreetly on. Janina Suchodolska, who was in charge of soup deliveries, [...] smuggled the underground press, political news, secret messages and money into the camp. While distributing the soup as well as cleverly hidden secret material in the presence of SS-men, she also managed to ask the inmates on the various Compounds, in a whisper, what they needed most, whether she should pass a message to someone, [...] she even managed to pass on political information."
Marszałek demands a bit too much credulity from his readers: the SS were certainly not blind men in whose presence one could "distribute cleverly hidden secret materials" without their noticing. The only possible conclusion is that they did not care about the distribution of the "secret material".
But this obvious indifference of the administration to the activities in the camp had a fateful counterpart: they also behaved with indifference towards brutal excesses committed against the prisoners by the guards.
Accounts of cruel mistreatment of inmates, right up to casually committed murder, run like a red thread through the official literature on Majdanek. The basis for these accounts are statements of former camp inmates.
Now there are good reasons to assume that at least some of these accounts are greatly exaggerated. Anyone who had lived through Majdanek quite naturally felt a deep hatred of the SS who had deprived him of his freedom under the basest of circumstances, and was thus almost inevitably inclined to give the most lurid accounts of their brutality. Furthermore, the tendency to dramatize bad experiences is a general human trait.
Accordingly, the French Resistance fighter and Socialist Paul Rassinier, inmate of the Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau camps, titled a book about his camp experiences in which he critically examined his former fellow-prisoners' accounts, Le Mensonge d'Ulysse (The Lies of Ulysses), referring to the self-deceiving hero Ulysses (Odysseus) who augmented a hundred torments he had really suffered with a thousand more of his own invention.
Therefore, the claims made by the eyewitnesses must be treated with some reservations. If, for example, former Majdanek inmates claim that the SS-man Arthur Gossberg had played 'William Tell' when drunk, placed apples on inmates' heads and then fired at them with his pistol, or that the SS-man Anton Thumann as well as the physician Heinrich Schmidt had fired shots through the windows into the Women's Hospital for fun, this is no doubt pure atrocity propaganda. The legend of William Tell has also been imputed to the German Gottfried Weise, stationed in Auschwitz, and the tale of SS-men taking shots into a hospital for fun is strikingly reminiscent of that scene in Steven Spielberg's Hollywood film Schindler's List where the director has Ammon Göth, the Commandant of the labor camp Płaszów, pass the time by shooting down inmates from his vantage point on the balcony of his villa. This kind of morbid fantasy has nothing to do with historiography.
In principle, the SS-men were strictly forbidden to mistreat inmates. In Auschwitz, all members of the SS had to sign an agreement that they would not harm inmates physically; severe punishment was threatened in cases of noncompliance. Even though no similar documents are known to us for Majdanek we suspect that the rules were the same there.
Often enough, however, rules are on paper only. We do not doubt that mistreatment was in fact a widespread problem in Majdanek. One of many pieces of circumstantial evidence for this is provided by the memoirs of the Norwegian Erling Bauck, whose objective and matter-of-fact tone is a welcome contrast to other, entirely unbelievable witness accounts. Bauck worked in an outside labor detail in Majdanek. When a thoroughly down-to-earth witness such as Bauck, who always expressly identifies rumors as rumors, writes that one records officer constantly beat the inmates with a whip, we really see no reason to take this as a figment of an excessively creative imagination.
Therefore, there are grounds to suspect that the camp administration's indifference resulted in frequent abuse of inmates in Majdanek, but that this did not reach the degree that is alleged. Due to the lack of documents, not much more can be said on this topic.
The lack of any and all documentary source materials also limits our observations about the number of executions carried out in the Lublin camp via shooting or hanging. We can only say that no doubt the number was great, particularly since inmates who were sentenced to death for actual or alleged crimes were not the only ones to be executed there, Resistance fighters sentenced to death outside the camp were also sent to Majdanek (or to the nearby forest of Krepiecki) to be executed.
The decisive factor which made Majdanek the worst of all the National Socialist concentration camps, at least part of the time, was probably neither the mistreatment of inmates-the scale and scope of which cannot be determined-nor the executions, which of course also took place in other camps. Rather it was the sanitary conditions, which were dreadful until early 1943 and still very bad from that time until autumn of the same year, and which inevitably triggered epidemics and thus the incredibly high mortality rate in the Lublin camp. This too was a result of the 'temporary nature' of this camp: as we have seen, Majdanek's connection to the municipal sewer system of Lublin was greatly delayed by squabbling among various authorities, and carried out at a snail's pace even once it had finally been decided upon.
2. Sanitary Conditions and Disease
Where people live closely crowded together, the danger of disease grows. Epidemics, particularly typhus transmitted by lice, were the main reason for the at times staggering mortality rate in the National Socialist concentration camps.
Admittedly, where sanitation and medical care were concerned, there were great differences between the camps. This is already shown by the mortality rates, which often differed greatly even for the same time period. Important information about these mortality rates is provided particularly by the September 30, 1943, report of SS-Obergruppenführer and WVHA Chief Oswald Pohl to Heinrich Himmler, which discussed the measures taken to reduce mortality rates in the concentration camps, and the results achieved by them. Pohl informed his superior that by improving sanitary conditions as well as the rations and clothing of the inmates, the mortality rate in the camps had successfully been reduced from 10%(!) in December 1942 to 2.09% in August 1943.
As Document PS-1469 shows, not one of the 2,500 inmates in the Dutch concentration camp Hertogenbosch died in August 1943, only one out of 3,000 in the Riga camp, and 40 out of 17,500 in Dachau (which corresponds to a death rate of 0.25%). The Lublin concentration camp had the highest death rate by far: 7.67% for the men and 4.41% for the women. (For the sake of comparison: in Auschwitz, the mortality rate for the men was 3% that month, and for the women it was 3.61%.)
As already pointed out, the catastrophic sanitary conditions were the main reason for the abnormally high death rates in the Lublin camp.
In the anthology Majdanek 1941-1944 Zofia Murawska devotes several pages to the sanitary conditions in the camp. She sketches the following overview:
- Until spring 1942 there were no sanitary facilities and no running water in Majdanek. The first two wells on the camp grounds were not finished until May 1942.
- There were no laundry facilities until January 1943. Up to that time, the inmates had to do their laundry by hand, insofar as there was even any water available for this purpose. In the winter they obtained water by melting snow or ice.
- As of spring 1942, new arrivals were given shower baths. The camp inmates had only very irregular access to the showers. Weekly showers were not scheduled until late autumn 1943.
- Flush toilets were available only as of August 1943. Before that, the internees had to make do with primitive latrines in the form of pits with boards laid across. At night the prisoners were forbidden to leave the barracks and had to relieve themselves into boxes that were emptied in the morning.
- Due to the lack of water, soap and disinfectants, lice and other vermin were everywhere.
- In the second half of 1943 sanitary conditions improved noticeably. By autumn of that year, every barrack had faucets as well as stone wash basins.
Although these findings are based primarily on witness reports, they are probably quite realistic; they are also confirmed by German documents. We shall quote two of these documents-excerpts from one, and the other in its entirety.
On January 20, 1943, SS-Hauptsturmführer Krone traveled to Lublin on business and subsequently drew up a report in which he recorded the following:
"1. Water supply
The connection to the Lublin municipal supply net is finished. Also, all water-consuming facilities such as kitchen, bath, laundry and the crematorium are connected. At the moment, therefore, there are no water supply problems in the camp. Work is proceeding on the connections for the washing and toilet barracks.
The installation of washing and toilet facilities in all housing barracks, requested at the urging of the camp Commandant, for reasons of safety, is feasible. Steps have already been taken to obtain the required materials.
The connections for the quarters of the command staff and the guard battalions are also finished, and work is proceeding on the inside fixtures [...]
5. Sanitary facilities
The delousing, disinfection and bath facilities present at this time are adequate for the current population of 5,000 inmates, However, according to the camp Commandant, a larger population is to be expected shortly. At this time, Amt CIII has access to some steam disinfection apparatus [for disinfestation purposes] and steps have been taken towards providing three larger facilities.
Division of the delousing facility into a clean and a contaminated side has been done.
6. Laundry facilities
At this time, the POW camp has only a hand-laundry facility. This must be considered inadequate for purposes of ensuring the sanitary and unexceptionable cleansing of laundry and clothing.
The commandant of the POW camp Lublin pointed this out with particular emphasis and stressed that typhus, which has been on the rise-especially recently-among members of the SS (at this time some 40 SS-men are suffering from typhus), can only be brought under control by means of an adequate and thorough cleaning of the laundry. [...]
Over the next weeks the firm Poensgen, Düsseldorf, will provide four small laundry facilities, each consisting of one machine, one centrifuge and one mangle, which had been intended for police bases in the east. These facilities shall be used to process only the laundry of the command staff and the members of the guard battalion."
Two months later, on March 20, 1943, SS-Untersturmführer Birkigt followed up on an inspection conducted on February 23 and 24 by drawing up a report on the sanitary conditions in Majdanek. He wrote:
"A) Current conditions (Population approximately 7,000 inmates)
At present, just under 10% of the camp population is ill. For the more than 600 patients, including some 200 surgical cases (frostbite, etc.), there are 3 infirmary barracks available on Compound I. This compound is described as a model compound. The infirmary barracks are separated from the housing barracks of Compound I by no more than an ordinary barbed-wire fence. In terms of laundry, rations etc., the infirmary barracks are supplied by the facilities of Compound I, i.e., they do not have their own kitchen, laundry, disinfection facility, etc. Currently each of the infirmary barracks houses more than 200 patients. Due to the triple-decker bunks, the barracks are overcrowded and lack adequate ventilation.
To date the only toilet facilities were dry (non-flush) toilets, located in a special barrack at the east end of each Compound. The feces were carted out onto the fields located towards the west. Since autumn last year, a sluice system has been set up, which joins the municipal sewers via a 60Ær canal. This sluice system still lacks two feeder pipes for Compound V, which could not be installed due to the onset of frost.
The Building Administration and Command arranged for the construction of latrine pits with one or two seats at various points above the sluice feeders so as to be able to begin using the sluice system even prior to completion of the planned flush toilets. The final plan provides for eight fixed toilets with ring-flush system at one end of each housing barrack
To date there are no washing facilities in the barracks or washing barracks. The inmates are to wash themselves in wash bowls or buckets, using water brought in from the well. A new water pipe is in place and connected to the municipal water supply. Pressure is very low, since the municipal waterworks has a single functional pump said to manage only 8,000 cubic meters per day. A reserve pump exists, but is out of order.
Plans provide for washing facilities with two washing barracks (approximately 20-24 places) or with washing channels (approximately 40-50 places) at one end of each accommodation. At the moment, to provide for the interim, the toilet barrack at the eastern end of each barracks compound is equipped with a washing facility with wooden channels which, however, will probably not have a sufficient lifespan even for the interim. These temporary washing facilities have been ordered completed by March 3, 1943. However, since there appears to be a shortage of equipment and skilled labor, it seems that all the work will not be finished by the end of March.
At present the only effective body cleansing for inmates consists of bathing (showering) in combination with body disinfection via an antiseptic bath in the two disinfection barracks. Each disinfection barrack has 40 showers. According to the camp physician and the SDG
B) The concentration camp is to be enlarged to hold 25,000 prisoners.
1. The infirmary must be made large enough and must be flexible enough for expansion in case of epidemics. It must continue to be separated from the rest of the camp by a quarantine strip and must receive its own supply facilities (kitchen, laundry, disinfection etc.).
Assuming a normal-case average of 3% patients, infirmary barracks must be adequate to permanently accommodate some 750 inmates. In the case of an epidemic, it must be possible to supplement this permanent infirmary with enough barracks to accommodate 10% of all inmates in infirmary or quarantine barracks-i.e., with a capacity of 2,500 inmates.
To allow the additional infirmary barracks to be used as regular accommodations under normal conditions, they must be set up singly or in groups of two, divided by quarantine strips, so that they may be added to the infirmary facilities if and as needed.
2. The washing conveniences for the inmates, as well as the toilet facilities, must be built as planned, and with all due speed.
3. The disinfection facility must be enlarged to reflect the future size of the camp, and must be equipped properly. It must be large enough so that
a) it can accommodate a larger-scale, batch-processing operation,
b) clean people do not come into contact with dirty laundry,
c) the inmates performing the disinfection cannot but undergo the cleansing process themselves.
It seems important that the infirmary should receive its own disinfection facility and that if possible the Crematorium be transferred into the area of the camp infirmary as well.
These two documents clearly show that sanitary conditions continued to be unacceptable even after the camp's connection to the municipal water supply was complete, but also that SS authorities in charge strove earnestly to improve the situation. No doubt this was a result of Pohl's December 1942 order to improve the living conditions of concentration camp inmates.
The sanitary conditions described perforce brought all sorts of diseases with them. The Polish historian Jolanta Gajowniczek wrote an article on this topic, stating:
The worst health problem in Majdanek was typhus. (In view of the utmost importance of this point we shall quote her subsection on typhus in Majdanek almost in its entirety, later on.)
Tuberculosis claimed a very great number of lives. In the first months of 1944, the number of cases in the camp itself was further increased by the fact that many tuberculosis patients were brought to Majdanek from the Reich.
Poor rations resulted in massive cases of dysentery.
Scabies was very widespread due to inadequate personal hygiene resulting from the lack of water.
In her discussion of the men's and women's infirmary the author gives the following account of the medical care inmates received as of late 1941:
- On November 27, 1941, a little over one month after the arrival of the first transports of prisoners, eight inmate doctors (seven Poles and one Czech) were sent to the Lublin camp from the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. Three more doctors from Sachsenhausen followed in December 1941, as well as one each from Dachau and Buchenwald.
- For the first months these doctors could not do anything for the patients since there was no medication and no bandages.
- In early 1942, the first isolation compound for typhus victims was set up. In February of that year, one barrack (Block 1 on Compound I) was set aside to house the patients.
- Also in February 1942, more inmate doctors arrived, this time from Auschwitz. In the second quarter of the same year they were followed by Jewish doctors from Slovakia and from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. These doctors brought medical instruments, medications and bandages with them.
- In March or April 1943 there were a total of 5 infirmary barracks. Barrack 1 included the quarters of the inmate doctors as well as the (German) camp physician's office, Barrack 2 contained the surgery, Barracks 3 and 4 served to accommodate bed-ridden patients, and Barrack 5 housed patients with infectious diseases. Another five barracks (numbers 6 through 10) were intended as emergency reserve, in other words probably for the case of an epidemic.
- In addition to these barracks, every compound had small "sick huts".
For October 1943 the author gives an indication of the nationalities of the doctors. At that time 120 assistants as well as the doctors did duty in the infirmary. Most of the doctors were Polish political prisoners, whereas the vast majority of the assistants were Jews.
Between December 12, 1943, and March 22, 1944, transports of sick inmates arrived in Majdanek from various camps in the Reich. J. Gajowniczek writes that there are no documents that indicate whether these sick inmates had been sent to the Lublin camp for elimination or for treatment, but she considers the former to be likely. On the other hand, she also mentions an April 13, 1944, transport of patients, doctors and assistants leaving Majdanek for Auschwitz.
When the camp was closed down on July 22, 1944, the sick inmates who were unable to travel were released and the rest were sent to Auschwitz.
In the women's division of the camp, the medical conditions seem to have been better than in the men's division; in the women's section a medical service was set up relatively promptly, and it also had some of the requisite equipment.
The compulsion to respect the orthodox image of Majdanek as "extermination camp" prompts the author to make all sorts of comments about "selections for the gas chamber" and the like. For example, she writes:
"The awareness of the imminent danger of being selected for gassing or of being killed by an injection of phenol resulted in most sick inmates trying to avoid hospital care. Those whose sensitivities had already been dulled, those with high fever (e.g. with typhus), the excessively worn-down, and those who had made their peace with the thought of death, were the only ones to report to the infirmary. For the majority of them the infirmary became the waiting room of death. For the Hitlerian camp authorities the infirmary no doubt represented an important way station for the selection of inmates to be sent to the gas chamber, but for many sick prisoners it meant a reprieve from death. Sick inmates were admitted to the infirmary to preserve them from selection in the barracks on the inmates' compound, and the inmate doctors did their best to protect the convalescents from selection and to send them to the 'easiest' labor unit where they could regain their strength. The outpatient department and the infirmary were also the only salvation for cripples, as well as for those who had various physical injuries because they had been beaten at work. In the view of former inmate Dr. Romuald Sztab, the infirmary, to the Polish doctors, was an opportunity to save people's lives. And this is exactly the role it played as far as possible, which is demonstrated by the large number of inmates who survived their bouts with typhus and recovered in the infirmary after their treatment. Thanks to the secret procurement of typhus vaccine, which they had received from the Polish underground, the Polish doctors were able to save the lives of a certain number of inmates."
All this seems like a muddle of contradictory nonsense. If the infirmary was an "important way station for the selection of inmates to be sent to the gas chamber", then it would have been quite impossible to take refuge there from "selection in the barracks". If those inmates who were unfit to work were being culled for the gas chamber at such selections, then the "cripples", in other words those who were thoroughly unfit to work, could hardly have found a sanctuary from death in the infirmary. And patients "with high fever (e.g. with typhus)" would have been the last to report to the infirmary if there had been an "imminent danger of being selected for gassing" there.
Of course the author could not fail to see the contradictory nature of her own claims. She tries to explain these inconsistencies as follows:
"One might get the impression that it must have been impossible to reconcile the selection of inmates, the need for as many laborers on the one hand and the desire for the most thorough solution possible to the Jewish Question (meaning the extermination of the Jews) on the other. One way out of this conflict of interests was the predominance of one of these goals. In the case of Majdanek, the desire for extermination was undoubtedly predominant from the beginning of the camp's existence until autumn 1943. It was not until late 1943 that the inmates began to be considered as manpower needed in the ordnance factories of the Reich."
J. Gajowniczek mentions the transports of sick inmates who arrived from the Reich between December 1943 and March 1944. Danuta Czech's Kalendarium tells us of similar transports that had already arrived earlier.
For June 3, 1943, this Kalendarium states:
"542 male and 302 female inmates suffering from malaria were transferred from Auschwitz to the concentration camp Lublin (Majdanek)."
and on November 25, 1943:
"[...] the registration was ordered of those inmates suffering from malaria who were quartered in the inmates' infirmary and the recovery blocks; the malaria patients were to be transferred to the Lublin camp (Majdanek)."
On the other hand, two transports of sick inmates leaving Majdanek for Auschwitz are also recorded. According to the Kalendarium, 750 Jews and 750 Jewesses arrived in Auschwitz on July 8 of that year. Of these, the Auschwitz doctors admitted 49 men to the inmates' infirmary or the convalescent block for exhaustion, bacterial tissue inflammation and severe hernias, and declared 80 women unfit to work. Beyond that, it was "found that the overall condition of the transferred inmates prevents their being put to work without reservation in the concentration camp Auschwitz". And for July 11, 1943, the Kalendarium records the arrival of 763 male and 568 female prisoners from Majdanek, many of whom were ill and unable, or largely unable, to work.
Now, if we ignore the extermination tales, which are not supported by so much as one single document, we arrive at the following picture of the sanitary conditions in Majdanek:
The camp administration-which was no doubt chiefly to blame for the scandalous conditions-did make a number of efforts, albeit belatedly, to improve health care in the camp and thus to reduce the mortality rate. Towards this goal it brought doctors from other camps to Majdanek, set up infirmary barracks, installed disinfection facilities. For this reason as well it let charitable organizations distribute vaccine against typhus. (The claim that this vaccine had to be smuggled into the camp by the Resistance movement is another one of the author's fairy-tales which, incidentally, contradicts her earlier statements: as she herself notes only a few pages earlier, in her subsection "Typhus", this vaccine was brought into the camp perfectly legally by the Polish Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations.)
J. Gajowniczek's expositions on the typhus epidemic seem to us to be so significant that we shall include them here in only slightly abbreviated form:
"One of the consequences of starvation-induced illnesses was the almost total loss of the body's natural resistance, which facilitated the spread of infectious diseases. In Majdanek, as in many other camps, the most frequent epidemic was typhus. The inmate physicians identified the first cases of this disease in Majdanek in December 1941 during an examination of the state of health of the Soviet POWs. It turned out that half of those examined were suffering from this disease, or had recovered from it and were still totally exhausted. The strenuous work to which the sick inmates were put in the inmate work units would have resulted in another increase in the number of cases of this disease. On the other hand it would also have been dangerous to leave the sick in the barracks; for this reasons, the Germans murdered those suspected of having typhus as a matter of principle. However, eradicating the typhus-transmitting lice together with those they had infested was no way to overcome the epidemic. The arrivals of new transports caused another rise in the number of cases. In June 1942 2,000 inmates already suffered from typhus. Since they had failed to get the situation under control, the camp authorities carried out a selection that claimed the lives of 200 inmates. They were led into Krepiecki Forest and shot. In late July that year, a general selection of all the inmates was ordered; as part of this process, 2,500 typhus victims were murdered in Krepiecki Forest. In a secret message smuggled out of the camp in July 1942, the inmate physician Dr. Jan Nowak wrote about this selection:
'The Infirmary Kapo (Benden) carried out a selection of typhus patients on the entire Compound I-more than 1,500 invalids were driven into Krepiecki Forest in cars and farming vehicles, and as I found out in the evening they were murdered and buried in this forest. This is how the typhus epidemic is combated in Majdanek. The epidemic has wiped out a transport of 12,000 Slovak Jews; only a few thousand of them are left. In the face of this campaign it is not permitted in our pseudo-hospital to diagnose typhus-we have to use the code word 'pneumonia'. The first to fall ill with typhus in the course of this 'epidemiological campaign' was the Infirmary Kapo; he is kept in isolation in Block I, and the entire camp hopes he will die.'
But the typhus epidemic continued to rage, not only among the inmates but also among the SS men who made up the camp guard. Disturbed by this state of affairs, the camp authorities carried out selections regularly every 14 days and obliged the block leaders to pick out the typhus patients and to transfer them to the camp infirmary, which was already organized and where selections took place even more frequently.
In autumn 1942 the authorities ordered a general disinfection of Compound I, for which all inmates were transferred to Compound II. It seems that this shift was dictated by an order from higher up (exact source not known), since a similar delousing operation in combination with the murder of the patients also took place in Auschwitz on August 28. In Auschwitz as well as in Majdanek, the transfer of people from one compound to another did not reduce the number of typhus cases. More new transports kept arriving; the sanitary conditions did not improve, and neither did the means for curing typhus. Thus the epidemic was not contained.
It is difficult even to estimate roughly how many prisoners succumbed to typhus in Majdanek in 1941 and 1942. In determining the victim count one must consider not only those who indirectly died of the disease, but also the healthy Jews who were shot during this time in Krepiecki Forest [sic!] as well as the victims murdered in the gas chamber.
In 1943 there was no change with respect to the epidemics, even if the camp authorities now resorted to isolating typhus patients to a greater extent. In February 1943, in place of two barracks on Compound I, Barrack No. 8 on Compound II as well as No. 12 and, for a few days, No. 13 on Compound III as well as Nos. 7 and 9 on Compound IV were set aside for the sick inmates. After the bath, the inmates were given a sulphurous cream which they had to rub on themselves. After evening roll-call a search for lice was often conducted in the blocks, and anyone on whom lice were found was punished. But all these measures failed, as the living barracks, blankets and straw pallets were infested with lice, and baths were administered in such a way that they only amounted to additional harassment and resulted in many inmates falling ill. On February 3, 1943, a temporary quarantine of the camp was imposed, since the number of typhus cases had skyrocketed again.
In spring 1943 only two barracks on Compound I were set aside for the typhus patients, and as the memoirs of former inmates show, this was the reason for the murder of most of the seriously ill patients-including a considerable number of typhus patients-in the gas chambers. Also, sick inmates from Compounds III and IV were transferred to Compound I; together with harassment, this measure resulted in many patients dying within a short time, even though the living barracks on Compound I were much cleaner than those on Compounds III and IV. Nor didt he typhus epidemic spare the doctors for the barracks for the epidemic victims: Józef Jakowski, Marian Jastrzebski, Edward Nowak, and Johann Řiha died in 1943.
In summer and autumn 1943 the typhus epidemic continued unabated, especially in Compound III, which resulted in the disinfection of the Compound being followed up with a quarantine of the camp lasting from October 25 to November 25. At that time, Barracks 20, 21 and 22 were reserved for the patients. Polish inmates made up the medical personnel. But the 'typhus blocks' still worked. Not until December 26 were the remaining patients taken to Compound V, together with the staff. Soon afterwards, sick inmates who had been transferred to Majdanek from camps in the Reich were quartered there without prior disinfection. The infirmary barracks were given almost no medication and no fuel, and several dozen of the new arrivals died every day.
After the inmates there were evacuated in April 1944, the typhus still did not disappear. Since inmates in the commando charged with cleaning up the undisinfected barracks contracted typhus, the camp authorities saw themselves forced to set up a temporary isolation ward for the sick in Barrack 15 on Compound I. It was not possible to exterminate the lice in the camp barracks, which resulted in a continual spread of the typhus.
The typhus epidemic did not spare the women's compound either. [...] The largest number of cases among the women was recorded in spring and summer 1943, when numerous transports of Jewesses from the Warsaw ghetto as well as women evacuated from Ukrainian and White Russian territories arrived [...].
Only a radical change in the sanitary conditions as well as the strict isolation of patients and a better supply of medication to the infirmary could have brought results. Without these conditions being met, the only inmates that could survive their bouts of typhus were those that had a strong constitution or who received adequate care in the infirmary during their convalescence.
Polish inmates were better off than others, for as of October 1943, i.e., in the final stage of the camp's existence, they were cared for by charitable organizations from Lublin that supplied the infirmary with medication and medical equipment. The typhus vaccine, which was distributed to the Poles twice, was of major significance. As early as May 1943 camp had been supplied with 1,000 units of anti-typhus vaccine, and on October 20 that year the Polish Red Cross delivered a second batch of this vaccine. Understandably, only a small number of inmates could reap the benefits."
In the next chapter we shall come back to the evidence for the extermination of the sick inmates in Majdanek. J. Gajowniczek is not alone in alleging this extermination; it is generally claimed by orthodox historians.
For the moment we shall make only a simple, logical objection: If "the desire for extermination was undoubtedly predominant" in Majdanek at least until autumn 1943, it would have been preposterous to build a hospital. It would have been preposterous to reassign inmate doctors from Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Auschwitz to Majdanek. It would have been preposterous to set up disinfection facilities and thus to protect the inmates to be exterminated from dying of typhus. It would have been preposterous to send inspectors to Majdanek and have them draw up lengthy reports about the sanitary conditions and about the measures to be taken for their improvement. Finally, it would have been preposterous to allow the Red Cross to distribute the typhus vaccine.
|||Regarding the inmates' correspondence with their kin, as well as the censorship of this correspondence, see the chapter by the Norwegian Erling Bauck, "Norwegische Facharbeiter", in: Tomasz Kranz (ed.), Unser Schicksal-eine Mahnung für Euch... Berichte und Erinnerungen der Häftlinge von Majdanek. Lublin: Panstwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, 1994, pp. 182-184.|
|||Józef Marszałek, "Konspiracja w obozie", in: Tadeusz Mencel, op. cit. (note 23), pp. 346, 349.|
|||Le Mensonge d'Ulysse, La Librairie française, Paris 1950 (online: www.vho.org/aaargh/fran/archRassi/prmu/prmu.html)|
|||Zofia Murawska, "Warunki egzystencji wiezniów. Szykani i kary" (Conditions of the Inmates' Existence. Harassment and Punishments), in: T. Mencel, op. cit. (note 23), p. 167.|
|||Claus Jordan, "Politics and the Justice System. A Case Study", in: Germar Rudolf (ed.), Dissecting the Holocaust: The Growing Critique of 'Truth" and 'Memory', 2nd edition, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago, IL, 2003, pp. 147-181|
|||The agreement which the SS-men had to sign stated:"I am aware that the Führer alone can decide on the life and death of an enemy of the state. I may not physically harm or kill an enemy of the state (inmate). Every instance where a concentration camp inmate is killed requires permission from the Reichsführer-SS personally. I am aware that in the event of a violation of this agreement I will be severely called to account." GARF, 7021-107-11, Sheet 130.|
|||E. Bauck, op. cit. (note 138), p. 180.|
|||See Document 11.|
|||Zofia Murawska, "Warunki egzystencji wiezniów. Warunki sanitarne", in: T. Mencel, op. cit. (note 23), pp. 134-140.|
|||APMM, micr. no. 816, pp. 9f.|
|||Ibid., pp. 12-14.|
|||See Chapter I.|
|||Jolanta Gajowniczek, "Choroby i epidemie. Rewir" (Illnesses and Epidemics. The Infirmary), in: T. Mencel, op. cit. (note 23), pp. 196-225.|
|||Ibid., pp. 203ff.|
|||Ibid., p. 207.|
|||Ibid., p. 219.|
|||Danuta Czech, op. cit. (note 122), p. 511.|
|||Ibid., p. 663.|
|||This will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter IV.|
|||J. Gajowniczek, op. cit. (note 151), pp. 197-200.|
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